A Love Letter to Malcolm X

A Sincere Note to A Sincere Prophet

Dear Malcolm,

There have been several great men that have influenced and still influence my life in a major way: Bill Jones (my father), Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad, Mohandas Gandhi, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Martin Luther King, Dr. Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, and you sir, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. These men have changed the world as we know it, and the least I can do as a student of truth is to absorb as much as possible from such prophetic servants. On this day, May 19, 2017, your particular legacy stands out to me because you touched my life in such a glorious way. You helped shape the foundation of who I am today and who I will become. You told me who I was and more importantly, who and what I was not. You gave me tremendous pride and confidence, helped me with my homework and writing assignments, and showed me what evolution was all about. Unfortunately, we never met. I never dined with you or ever heard you give an electrifying speech in person. When I read your powerful autobiography, I was around 16 or 17 and, let me tell you, the landscape of my mind was altered forever. So on this enlightening day, May 19, nearly 100 years after you entered the world, I humbly offer this love letter, honoring your massive contributions on my existence.

Malcolm, did you have an impact on my spiritual life? I’d say so. I’m from a small, (sometimes) narrow-minded city called Jackson, MS. As you know, in the rural south, if you’re not Christian, you’re going to hell (according to many zealots) and many offer zero respect for other religions. Everything was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus. As a bright kid, I challenged dogmas and perspectives, in respect to the Socratic method of questioning. When I stumbled across The Autobiography of Malcolm X, I was about 16 and knew nothing of Islam or Muslims. At that time, I would define a Muslim as one that they wore bow ties and peddled the freshest fruit on the corners of our inner cities. My schools didn’t talk much about you, nor did my parents. Everything regarding Black history was surrounded around MLK and this passive image the media had created in connection with the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. By that juncture in my life, I was fed up with Martin and I longed for something a little edgier and brash. Who was this Malcolm X guy that folk would whisper about, sweep under the rug and dismiss? I read your book and soon gained as much understanding from it that a naive, southern African American kid could at that time. Your story compelled me to seek what Islam was all about. If it changed you so drastically from your troubled past, what could it do for me? After much study, I was ready to convert to Islam all because of you, but amid so much criticism and ridicule in my family and community, I was afraid. Later I got the guts to convert and it was an extremely beneficial decision.

I found a small pocket of Muslim brothers and sisters and we gathered in an office building as a mosque and my relationship with God (Allah) grew in levels. The leader, Imam Muhammad, was a former NOI (Nation of Islam) member who told me stories of how well they impacted African American communities they lived in and also gave a vivid description of the unfair, vitriolic racism endured, due to being a member of the Nation of Islam. Imam Muhammad talked about the profitable businesses they ran and so forth. I absorbed so much wisdom from this respected elder. He encouraged me to enroll in college and better myself. Imam Muhammad introduced me to the old adage “opportunity costs,” which led me to quit a dead end job and pursue my political aspirations. I love that brother for that. Being a part of that mosque taught me tremendous discipline. It takes discipline to acknowledge God five times a day in a uniform fashion, reciting “The Opening” each time. It takes discipline for a native Mississippian to stop eating pork when it is 80% of your diet. It takes discipline to give up alcohol at the age of 22, a very difficult task. The members of that mosque were the most loving, non-judgmental religious affiliated people I had ever met. No longer did I make the racist 9/11 anti-Muslim jokes. True Islam is a beautiful religion and way of life. I love and adore all my Islamic brothers and sisters all over the globe. Malcolm, I would have never had such a transformative experience had I never picked up your book. For helping find spiritual clarity, thank you, Brother Malcolm.

Now if one hadn’t enjoyed the pleasure of reading or listening to any of your speeches, they probably would be astonished to know you never earned one single collegiate credit. Later on, you lectured at many institutions of higher learning and starred on many panels, but never a student at any college or university. Your oratory was so polished and fine. You enunciated words with such precision and possessed a special knack for wordplay, however, one could still hear the hustler in your delivery. Despite your meteoric rise, you never lost your everyday connection with everyday people in urban streets; the people you often categorized as “those stuck the deepest in the mud.” When I discovered you were educated in the school of hard knocks and studied the dictionary back to front while incarcerated, I figured a free young Black student could do the same or better. While in high school, I began to feverishly study the English dictionary. If you ask any of my classmates from my years at the Piney Woods School, they would tell you that I always carried a bible in one hand and a dictionary in the other. I would challenge my peers to pick any word in the dictionary and I would know the meaning and word origin. No lie. I would be right 80% of the time. To this day, I never misspell words (although I’m terrible at punctuation lol). Before relocating from the deep south, Many times I was often accused of being an elitist because of how I speak. I would search far and wide to provide a defense to their accusation and now I’ve found that answer. It is all your fault, Malcolm. You inspired me with a drive to improve my vocabulary and my diction by way of your real example.

Malcolm, you gave me tremendous confidence. There was no better person to play you in the movie “X” than Denzel Washington. Denzel’s natural walk displays immense swagger, which was a carbon copy of yourself. For a kid growing up in a racist and bigoted Mississippi, your voice saying “hold your head up high and to be proud of who you are” was something African Americans needed to hear, especially African American children. You provided that bravado for me. You told me to love our women/children and protect them. You taught me never to fear any man or any obstacle. Your story directed me to seek the truth, no matter who criticizes. Malcolm, you taught me to always seek God and to love myself in the midst of racism that wanted me to hate myself. I used to be ashamed of my course hair and wide nose, but after basking in your presence, I was borderline arrogant.

Malcolm, you are to the poor and underprivileged what MLK is to the Rhodes Scholar: a relatable role model. With many African Americans being poor and our men being hustlers and ex-cons, your story was a real story that spoke to that hollow space of hope inside of them. Your story says that one can overcome no father, rampant racism, drug use, imprisonment, and hate from your fellow brother (all of which our men still endure). Your story says African American men can have a genuine relationship with God. Your story bleeds of human evolution.

You constantly sought truth and righteousness. Truth is, given the fact that African Americans are now represented by spineless and artificial leaders who align themselves with the highest bidder, we desperately need your voice today. How would you engage President Obama? Would you have offered ferocious critiques openly or privately to the 1st African American president? I can only imagine what you would say in a closed-door White House meeting with Donald Trump and Steve Bannon; then again, you’d probably be banned from the White House.

Thank you, Brother Malcolm, for keeping it real. We love and miss you. Happy Birthday. Thank You for Your Leadership.

Follow Damien Twitter: @DameThad